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Dear Thursday: SECRETS OF HAPPINESS by Sarah Dunn [Book 19 of 2010]

Okay, apparently I’m 6 books behind my goal of a book-a-week until my own comes out. But I’m determined to catch up before June 22. Thus, I’m declaring next week BOOK WEEK here at Fierce and Nerdy. Not only will I catch up on my reading challenge, but we’ll all be talking books, books, books. So do join us next Monday for that. Meanwhile, my thoughts on the last chicklit book of my challenge, SECRETS OF HAPPINESS by Sarah Dunn, after the jump:

Why I Decided To Read It: There are only a few authors in the entire chicklit movement that I’ll read in hardcover and as soon as their book comes out, no questions asked, no need to explain to me what their book is about. And Sarah Dunn is one of those authors. As a recovering Lutheran school grad, I adored her first book THE BIG LOVE (2005) and recommended it to just about everybody I knew. So how chagrinned was I when I found out that she had released her second book, SECRETS OF HAPPINESS over a year ago? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my favorite authors need to blog, so that I can keep up with them. That’s all.

What It’s About: This one is a multiple-character novel, but the main-main character is a neurotic, ex-evangelist and divorced television writer, living in New York with a much younger lover. We’re introduce to an assortment of her associates, including her adulterous married bestie, her ex-boyfriend, her gay male writing partner, and the sister of her young lover.

What Makes It Different: In a genre littered with multiple-female-only POV books, this was a refreshing change of pace.

What I Loved: If you don’t like Woody Allen, you will not like this book. I however ADORE Woody Allen movies, so this was right up my alley. Also, Dunn (who used to be a television writer herself) is very, very funny. I often found myself laughing out loud while listening to this book on my daily walks with the baby. I hope I didn’t weird out my neighbors, but I truly did enjoy this book from beginning to end.

What I Didn’t Like: This wasn’t exactly a driven plot, and sometimes I got a little frustrated with all the meandering. Also, there were a couple of characters that got both short-shrift and too neat endings. And this main-main character (a former evangelical television writer) was so much like the main character from Dunn’s first book (a former evangelical newspaper writer), that I had to check to make sure that this wasn’t a sequel. It wasn’t. But you know how the Foo Fighters are basically putting out the same song with slightly different arrangements again and again? This was kind of like that Foo Fighters song. Luckily for both Dunn and the Foo Fighters, I really like their originals, and don’t mind paying for different variations of it.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Give other characters a chance. I adored the multiple POV on this, and I loved that Dunn gave characters that we usually don’t get to hear from in chicklit a chance to shine, like the gay, oversexed, overdrugged and fading writing partner. I myself will probably never write any novel from a male POV (my skill set isn’t up to the task), so I really appreciated someone else showing me how it could be done.

Use your playwriting and screenwriting skills. This novel moved like a movie, and dialogued like a play. I loved that the scenes were short and direct, but also talkative. It instilled everything with meaning without boring us to death. I kept thinking how much better VALENTINE’S DAY would have been if it were based on this novel. I didn’t see VALENTINE’S DAY myself, but I just know that I would have if it had characters and situations as good as the characters and situations in this book.

Get an unusual narrator. I’m not sure what went into choosing Julie Dretzin, a somewhat baby-voiced actress with an unusual cadence to narrate this book. But she was a brilliant casting choice, inserting even more humor into the text with her read.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: New Yorkers, Former Evangelicals, TV Writers, Woody Allen Fans, and People In Therapy.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!